Only a minute into the game, Kris Versteeg hit a wide open Tomas Fleischmann alone in front of the net, but Flash couldn’t get the lumber on the rubber. Stephen Weiss found Versteeg just a minute later with another wide open net, but Versteeg also barely missed.
Are you sensing a pattern?
Soon afterward, Krys Barch and Arron Asham decided to drop the gloves and have at it. Barch was the nominal winner, although both were assessed identical fighting minors.
Pittsburgh actually collected the first six shots on goal, not allowing Florida to log a shot until a Jason Garrison one timer was unleashed with seven minutes gone in the first and the Panthers had been on a power play for a full minute. Pascual Dupuis had tripped Tomas Kopecky for Florida’s first man advantage.
At the 12 minute mark, Pittsburgh would enjoy their first power play of the evening when Stephen Weiss was called for tripping James Neal. Four clears, three goalposts and two blocked shots later the Cats killed the penalty. The Panthers were at even strength for a total of six seconds when Kris Versteeg was called for a slashing penalty, which was also successfully killed.
Mike Santorelli found a streaking Krys Barch down the left side of the ice with three minutes remaining but Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stoned him cold, freezing the puck on the save.
The Penguins failed to capitalize on a Chris Kunitz breakaway, with Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen making the point blank save.
Steve Sullivan scored his eighth goal of the season, getting the Penguins on the board first when Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen misjudged how much free space he had to work the puck. Clemmensen turned it over to Matt Cooke, who fed Sullivan for the easy score.
With five minutes gone in the period, Eric Tangradi and Erik Gudbranson decided to have it out. Tangradi lost his balance after throwing a single punch. The two were each awarded five minute fighting penalties.
Stephen Weiss was called for tripping Richard Park with nine minutes gone in the period, putting the Penguins on their third power play of the night. Florida cleared the puck three times over the two minute penalty kill, not allowing any shots.
With four minutes to play in the second, Versteeg, Weiss, Garrison and Campbell each got at least a shot on goal on an extended volley against Penguins goaltender Fleury, but nobody buried the equalizer.
The Penguins managed to score, with Evgeny Malkin stuffing his own rebound home for his 18th of the season after he was stopped on a two-on-one break by a Clemmensen save with only 35 seconds left in the period.
Tyler Kennedy scored his sixth goal of the season for the Penguins in the first minute of the third. It was a four on two breakaway for the Pens, with assists awarded to Brooks Orpik and Pascual Dupuis.
Pittsburgh went on another power play just a minute later when Michal Repik was called for interfering with Steve Sullivan.
After the penalty was killed, the Panthers finally got on the board with 13 minutes to play when Repik redirected a Jason Garrison slapshot for his second goal of the season. Krys Barch was also awarded an assist on the play.
Fleischmann waved his stick over the puck, missing a wide open net on a cross ice feed from Stephen Weiss with seven minutes remaining in regulation. Weiss will become Florida’s all time leader in assists with his next helper. He’s been stuck at 231 for about a year now.
Pittsburgh iced the game three minutes later when James Neal scored his 22nd goal of the season unassisted to put the Penguins on top, 4-1.
Hits: Penguins, 32-26 (Craig Adams led all skaters with seven, Dmitry Kulikov was tops on the Panthers with five).
Blocked Shots: Penguins, 12-7 (Paul Martin led Pittsburgh with three, Ed Jovanovski and Mike Weaver had two apiece for the Panthers).
Faceoffs: Panthers, 37-23 (Stephen Weiss led the world by winning 14 of 17 faceoffs. Marcel Goc wasn’t far behind, winning 10 of his 14).
Shots On Goal: Penguins, 41-26 (James Neal had nine and Evgeny Malkin had seven to lead Pittsburgh. Mike Santorelli had four and Michal Repik three for the Cats).
Score: Penguins 4, Panthers 1